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How Many Celtics Will Make All-Defense?

Derrick White and Jaylen Brown are two All-Defense Candidates.

The Celtics currently have the league’s second-ranked defense behind the Timberwolves and their lineup is filled with elite defenders. With award conversations heating up in the last month of the season it begs the question of how many All-Defense players do the Celtics have. All of Boston’s starting five are All-Defensive caliber. But with only ten spots the entire starting five can’t make it. Let’s dive into each player’s case and ultimately figure out who deserves to make an All-Defensive team.

How Many Celtics Will Make All-Defense?

Derrick White

Derrick White has an unimpeachable case for an All-Defensive team. Last season he was named to the All-Defensive second team this year White has increased his defensive production and impact. White is a historically great shot-blocking guard. His 1.3 blocks per game ranks 16th league-wide and first among guards. White’s 80 total shots blocked are the most among any guard by a wide margin. Both these numbers are notably higher than premier interior defenders including Bam Adebayo, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Jarrett Allen.

Earlier this year White became the first guard since Michael Jordan in 1987 to record seven straight games with two or more blocks. He joined Jordan and George Gervin as the only guards to achieve this feat. Exclusive company to say the least.  Shot blocking isn’t the only thing White does at an elite level defensively. White is also an elite perimeter defender; his size and IQ allow him to defend some of the league’s top players. He is also incredibly versatile and can switch on to bigger players or defend the post if needed. Overall White is one of the most impactful and valuable defenders in the league he is a lock for an All-Defensive team.


Jrue Holiday

Jrue Holiday’s versatile defense has been an underrated factor in Boston’s success this year. Holiday is well-regarded as one of the game’s best defenders. While he’s sacrificed a bigger role offensively this year Holiday remains one of the most impactful and elite defenders in the league. The key to Holiday’s success is unmatched versatility. Notably, Holiday ranks within the top ten in both versatility and matchup difficulty.

Holiday’s strength and IQ allow him to regularly guard big men, a strategy that has transformed Boston’s defense. Holiday is guarding forwards and centers at a career-high rate and among the most of any guard. This allows the Celtics to use Kristaps Porzingis as an off-ball roamer or throw one of the Js on an perimeter player making it much harder for opposing offenses to find a rhythm. Flexibility and versatility have been central to the Celtics’ defense success that’s a testament to Holiday’s value. The five-time All-Defensive player will in all likelihood make his sixth team in seven seasons.

Jaylen Brown

Jaylen Brown is having one of the best defensive seasons of his career. Even with a more talented roster, Brown has more defensive responsibilities than in previous years. Brown ranks ninth in matchup difficulty across the league. Brown’s perimeter defense has been a big story this year. He has consistently drawn difficult matchups on top perimeter players including Luka Doncic, Anthony Edwards, and Donovan Mitchell. Brown was very effective in guarding all of those players, especially Doncic. His skillset gives the Celtics more matchup options and allows for a versatile attack. Increased responsibility and matchup difficulty are central to Brown’s All-Defense case.

Jayson Tatum

Jayson Tatum is talented enough to be an All-Defensive player. His size and athleticism allow him to guard several positions. Tatum is very effective at defending the paint. With Tatum as the primary defender opponents are shooting under 40% on shots within five to nine feet. Tatum is also able to switch onto guards and contain them with his superior size and strength. This happened earlier in the year when Tatum was switched onto Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for most of the second half. While Tatum has the talent of an All-Defensive player his responsibilities hurt his case. Most nights Tatum is playing off-ball and not guarding one of the opposing team’s top two or even three players. Preserving Tatum’s energy for the offensive end is a smart strategy, especially on such a talented team. However, his case for All-Defensive is diminished as a result.

Kristaps Porzingis

While Porzingis has a solid case for All-Defense his time missed hurts him. Porzingis has already missed 20 games making him ineligible for any regular-season awards per the NBA’s new rule. Nevertheless, Porzingis has been a very impactful defender this year. As a rim protector, shot blocker, and off-ball roamer Porzingis offers everything you could ask for. He has unlocked a new element for the Celtics on both ends of the floor and deserves a ton of credit for it. Unfortunately, it won’t be in the form of an All-Defensive team or any other regular-season honor.

The Last Word

Ultimately White and Holiday are locks for All-Defense. What team they end up making is an interesting question I could see at least one of them most likely White being named to the first team. With the NBA switching to a positionless format it should be interesting to see how many guards make it this year. Outside of White and Holiday, Alex Caruso is likely another All-Defensive guard. Brown is on the verge of making it but could be penalized by his loaded team. No team has had three All-Defensive players since the 2012-13 Grizzlies Brown and the Celtics could certainly break this trend. Tatum will likely receive a handful of votes but it would be shocking if made one of the teams.


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